With 72 percent of US kids receiving their first connected device before 7th grade, security on the internet is more important than ever. According to online security company AVG, only one in five parents check their kids online activity once a month. Many never check at all.
Monitoring your child’s digital life is the ultimate tightrope walk. You need to make sure they’re safe, without becoming the dreaded “helicopter parent.” On the other hand, some parents relinquish control and trust schools to educate kids about the dangers online. That’s not enough. There need to be more boundaries, oversight, and education at home, particularly with adopted children who might come from environments with too little structure.
According to the online security experts over at McAfee, 70 percent of teens hide their online behavior from their parents. Also, more than one in five parents are overwhelmed by technology and just hope for the best. But hoping for the best is not a strategy.
The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) commissioned a survey to get a better understanding of digital security in homes with kids. Among their more disturbing findings:
- Only 41 percent of parents require their kids to have permission before downloading a new app or game, or before joining a social network
- Only 40 percent of parents prohibit password sharing with friends
- Just 34 percent require their children to provide them with all passwords to online accounts
Furthermore, while it’s crucial to make sure kids are safe online from bullies, hackers, and inappropriate content, it’s also important to make sure they’re not causing harm to anyone else. Here are ten ways to keep kids safe on the web:
1. Install security software
This is the best-known weapon in a parent’s arsenal. Popular family protection software includes Norton Family and Net Nanny. These programs are easy to download and have settings that can be personalized based on your situation and age of your children.
2. Use browser extensions
While software like Norton and Net Nanny run on your computer, more lightweight plugins run directly in your browser. One popular product is K9 Web Protection, which protects children from online threats and accessing unwanted content.
3. Add router protection
Most people set up their routers and then forget them. But your router could be the frontline of your online security. Instead of monitoring each individual computer, you can install router software or buy a router that helps monitor or restrict what kids look at online. Clean Router is one such product, and Luma is a company that hoping to rewrite what routers can do to make security, monitoring, and fast speeds much easier.
4. Take advantage of PC settings
Microsoft has taken Windows 10 security settings to the next level with Activity Reports. This feature allows parents to receive a log of sites visited (even the blocked ones) while also setting permissions. It will also report on which apps and how much screen time was used.
5. Use smartphone settings
On the iPhone, under the general settings, you can use restrictions to limit access to certain features and apps. For Android devices, make sure to set your up Google Play account so that a password is required to download apps and games. This way, your kids are restricted from predatory sites—and from running up your bill.
6. Try keystroke logging
Keystroke logging software allows you to visibly or invisibly track everything that happens on your computer. It can be used to monitor your activity or other people’s activity on a computer you own. This includes content such as passwords, emails, and chat messages. Some products will even email you reports. But be advised: this is only legal to install on computers that you own.
7. Leverage your mobile provider’s offerings
Most mobile providers offer some kind of protection and/or monitoring for your family’s mobile phones. These apps will allow you to monitor where your kids are, and even shows their whereabouts on an interactive map.
8. Try snooping
Go old school and take the opportunity to look at your kids’ phone to make sure what they’re doing meets your approval. This can be good because you see what they’re doing in real-time. It can also be intrusive, so tread lightly.
9. Install mobile apps
Mobile applications like PhoneSheriff allow you to block phone numbers, monitor text messages, and set time limits for both mobile phones and tablets. Mobile providers can also help with some of these features.
10. Set boundaries
Finally, nothing beats the value of having an open conversation with your kids, and establishing boundaries about their online use: when they can use their phone, the apps they can download, and the requirement that they share their passwords with you. These rules can ease up a bit as the kids get older and have earned your trust, but it’s important that a young person’s digital life has limits.